“A compassionate yet unreasonable friend” is one of my favourite definitions of a coach.
In my last blog I discussed the concept of a compassionate yet unreasonable friend, what I would like to think about this week is the final word, friend.
What exactly is a friend in this context?
A friend is not someone who simply agrees with you. A friend is not someone who is not critical of you. A friend is not someone who simply massages your ego.
A friend is not NICE.
Of course a friend is nice! I can hear you say.
My mother used to say it is nice to be nice, and I would support that sentiment, but NICE is also an acronym standing for Nothing Inside Me Cares Enough.
As a good friend, one who really cares for you I owe it to you, and to me, to speak the truth. To trade in the facts, no matter how unpalatable they may be. I do not serve either of us by avoiding the realities. When my partner asks “does my bum look big in this?” then I have a choice how I answer. Assuming the article of clothing isn’t flattering am I better fudging the answer and giving her the reassurance she would like to hear, or do I speak the truth? If I am a person of integrity and if I really care enough, I will tell the truth, whatever that may be.
Clients do not employ their coach so that their coach will tell them what they want to hear. There is enough potential for that to happen anyway within any business. Sometimes a coach is the only person with the permission, courage and opportunity to tell it like it is, to trade in the truth, to not be NICE. A great coach will care enough to step into the situation and help all parties to look at the truth and confront those realities. Awareness precedes all improvement and understanding the reality is a necessary prerequisite before any improvement can take place.
When a client suggests a course of action or proposes a hypothesis, that doesn’t seem well thought through, the coach also has a choice. My argument is that if the coach is a great coach he will have the courage and earned the permission to not be NICE, to deal in the truth and to speak that truth to help his client to think at a higher level, to prevent the mistake, and to help the client perform at a higher, more informed and effective level.
A great coach will also be able to deliver the news in a way that is direct and yet still palatable to his client, and that is part of the skillset of a great coach.
So in this context being a friend is not the wishy washy, compliant “rent a friend”. It is not a social function. It is a tough, hardnosed and disciplined role which has its foundations absolutely and deeply rooted in the desire to be of the best possible service to the client, no matter what the risks to the future relationship.
It is a friend with a purpose and that purpose is to help the client to be the best that they can possibly be, more often and more consistently. Without that purpose, that integrity and those skills, the coaching process is in danger of descending into collusion, and that is of no value to the client.
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